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Basketball Power Rankings: Rebels rise after stunning Aztecs

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It finally happened

NCAA Basketball: UNLV at San Diego State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, it finally happened. After months of sheer greatness from the San Diego State Aztecs men’s basketball team, the quest for perfection was ended by an unlikely source. We’re one week away from the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas and the sudden, albeit rare sign of weakness from the Aztecs begs the question: is there hope for the non-SDSU Mountain West teams in Vegas? Or was Saturday’s shocker a one off? Let’s see how the rankings pan out.

1. San Diego State - 26-1 (15-1), #5 NET

Calm down, it was one loss. Glory to UNLV for pulling off the shocker, but it was one game after all. San Diego State slipped to 5th in the voting rankings and 5th in NET, which in case you haven’t noticed is waaaaaay higher than anyone else in the conference. The Aztecs’ loss provides hope that maybe, and only maybe, someone can surprise them in the Vegas tournament, but make no mistake about it: SDSU is still a massive favorite. This loss might prove to be somewhat of a positive as it likely means the Aztecs won’t be the East’s 1-seed, meaning this team can play as a 2-seed on the West Coast come March Madness. Aztecs close the regular season with Colorado State and a weekend trip to Reno.

2. Utah State - 22-7 (11-5), #38 NET

It was a quiet week for the Aggies, who played Wyoming midweek but had the weekend off. Utah State easily whipped the hapless Pokes, and moved up to 38th in the NET Rankings. Sitting pretty for an at-large bid, they’ll close the regular season out with San Jose State and New Mexico. Then the only remaining task is not embarrassing themselves in Vegas. This should be an NCAA tournament bound team.

3. Nevada - 18-10 (11-5), #80 NET

It wasn’t as straightforward as expected, but Nevada did sweep the week’s slate of New Mexico and Fresno State, with the latter nearly shocking the Wolf Pack on their home floor. That said, I’m not too concerned about close results. Nevada will close the regular season with Wyoming midweek and then a massive tilt against San Diego State on the weekend. I’m no Mountain West homer, I know the Wolf Pack are a huge long shot for the big dance. That said, if they were to upset the Aztecs, the birds might start chirping.

4. UNLV - 15-14 (10-6), #112 NET

C’mon, give me a break. Yes, I know Boise State and Colorado State rank way ahead of the Rebels in NET, but I had to make a one week acknowledgement to Otzelberger and Rebels. What an absolute stunner. On a night in which the Aztecs somewhat bizarrely raised a championship banner, the Rebels were not about it and shocked SDSU 66-63 at Viejas. To this point, the returns on the Otzelberger hire were mixed. Then this happened, and now all of a sudden it feels like UNLV is on the path back to prominence. Not this season (although who knows?!), but we might one day point to this win as a turning point for this program. Rebels host Boise State on Wednesday, winner likely wins the final first round bye in the conference tournament.

5. Boise State - 19-10 (11-6), #88 NET

The week went to script for the Broncos. Hammered both San Jose State and New Mexico. With only UNLV on tap for this week, this team is on the bubble for a conference tournament bye. This has been an odd season for the Broncos. Wins over teams ranked 14th and 38th in NET, which would put them in the discussion for an at-large bid for the big dance if it weren’t for all the bad losses along the way. 2020-2021 is the hype year for the Broncos with all the big-named transfers in waiting, but can this team make a dent before the season ends? Or conclude with a whimper like many Rice teams of the past?

6. Colorado State - 19-10 (10-6), #105 NET

What the hell, Rams. Blown to bits by UNLV midweek (apparently a precursor to what was to come at Viejas) and then a underwhelming win against San Jose State over the weekend. A trip to San Diego awaits midweek, then the home finale vs. Air Force. Like UNLV and Boise State, the Rams are fighting for that final conference tournament bye. Here’s the thing: do the Rebels, Broncos, and Rams want to be 4th or 5th? 6th means playing a game against Wyoming in the opening round, and then dodging San Diego State’s side of the bracket. 6th doesn’t sound too bad.

7. New Mexico - 17-12 (6-10), #148 NET

I feel like I should have a page break between 1st-6th and 7th-11th. We’ve now reached the point of the rankings for teams who wish this season were over already. The Lobos lost at home to Nevada, then got wrecked at Boise State. Some players missed playing time for suspicious reasons. Paul Weir can recruit talented players, but I think it’s fair to wonder if he’s finding the right players from a ethical standpoint. Lobos close the regular season in Colorado Springs, followed by the home finale against Utah State.

8. Fresno State - 10-18 (6-11), #163 NET

The young Bulldogs had a decent week, beating Air Force and pushing Nevada to their limit in Reno. Like New Mexico and the other teams ranked 7-11, the Bulldogs are playing spoiler the rest of the way, but at least they can pin their struggles on youth. They’ll close the regular season with Wyoming at Save Mart Center.

9. Air Force - 10-18 (4-12), #226 NET

I had to scroll a long way to find the Falcons in the NET rankings. The loss on the road to Wyoming only highlights (or lowlights?) the fall of this 2019-2020 team. Falcons conclude the season with New Mexico and Colorado State. On the bright side for Falcons fans: football coach Troy Calhoun isn’t leaving for Colorado!

10. Wyoming - 7-21 (2-14), #285 NET

The Cowboys moved up in NET! The midweek beatdown in Logan sucked, but the Pokes recovered to upset (I guess?) Air Force in Colorado Springs. No, it doesn’t change anything for Edwards and co., but surely it felt good to win. Nevada comes to Laramie midweek and then the Cowboys end the season in Fresno where they have a decent chance to compete.

11. San Jose State - 7-21 (3-13), #280 NET

I won’t say anything bad about the Spartans in the cellar. It is what it is. To be honest, they pushed Colorado State more than I expected. At least it’s nice outside in San Jose. They’ll play Utah State and UNLV before travelling to Vegas for the conference tournament.

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One week away! Some busy convention in Las Vegas pushed the conference tournament a week earlier, so this upcoming week is the final week of the regular season for the MWC. Any surprises to come? Agree or disagree with the rankings? Comment below.